Thor steps easily from the Bifrost onto the floor of the golden observatory which welcomes all travellers to Asgard. He greets Heimdall, Asgard’s Gatekeeper, with a wide smile and moves to clasp his friend’s forearm in the traditional Aesir welcome.
“How fare you Heimdall?”
“Welcome home, my Prince. I am well, thank you.” Heimdall replies as he meets Thor’s smile with one of his own and clasps Thor's forearm in a similarly solid hold.
“And how is all on Asgard?” Thor asks a little hesitantly as his eyes automatically turn towards the City and its golden Palace rising in the distance.
“Repairs are at an advanced stage and I am pleased to advise the Shield has been repaired and is fully functional again”. Thor can still hear the pain in Heimdall's voice over what had occurred.
Thor smiles, being happy to hear things are getting somewhat back to normal following the attack by the Dark Elves. “That is excellent news! It is good to be back, my friend!”
Heimdall turns his eyes back towards the space and the wider universe. “How fares Loki?” he asks even though he is not sure Thor will give him an honest answer.
“He is well.” Thor smiles and his face lights up as he thinks of how far his brother has come. “He fights alongside Midgard’s mightiest heroes and once again at my side when the need arises”. There is no mistaking the pride in Thor’s voice.
“Hmm!” is all Heimdall says.
This surprises Thor. As a youth Loki had spent many hours in Heimdall’s company asking question after question about the other realms and races. While Loki, since learning of his true parentage, has done things to cause others to doubt his loyalties Thor had expected Heimdall to be happier about his word on Loki.
Turning to face his friend he straightens his shoulders before enquiring further. “You are not pleased that Loki once again fights by side as we had done for centuries?”
A little taken aback by the accusatory tone Thor used, Heimdall tries to explain. “It is not that I am not pleased. Loki is a fine fighter when he chooses but it is his loyalty and the protection he offers your back that concerns me, my Prince”.
“Heimdall, we are friends so speak plainly!”
“There are times when your brother is shielded from my eyes and ears and it is at these times that my concerns are raised”.
Thor considers how Loki has been behaving since he came to live among the Avengers and he thinks he may know when these times might be but he needs more detail to be certain.
“Have there been many such times?” He enquires.
“At first, no!” Heimdall admits. “But the incidents have become more frequent in the immediate weeks past. They vary in time and location.” He adds before Thor can say anything, “I have brought them to the King’s attention. He will, no doubt, be most anxious to speak to you.”
“Is my brother generally at the Avengers’ facility or in the company of one of my shield brothers immediately before you lose sight of him?”
“Generally, yes” Heimdall replies and he can tell by Thor’s expression and lack of concern that he may be aware of what Loki is doing at these times.
“Do not concern yourself, my friend. Loki is no threat to me, Asgard or Midgard at present and I do not believe he will be any time soon if the Norms be kind! And thank you for bringing it to my attention too.”
Thor makes enquiries about the health and wellbeing of Heimdall’s mother and that of his family. Heimdall gives him a quick run-down on what has been happening in his absence and the activities of the Warriors Three and Lady Sif. Some of the tales make Thor chuckle and he confirms that he will seek further details when he is once again in their company.
As he's about to leave he hesitates and enquires about Queen Frigga's health in advance of going to see her. The Queen had been injured when the Dark Elves had attacked and while she was recovering well she had not been fully healed when Thor last visited. She was only in the early stages of recovery when he had taken Loki to Midgard. Thor knew that Loki would have preferred to stay on Asgard until she was fully recovered but Odin did not want the goodwill of people towards Loki, gained as a result of his assistance in the defeat of the Dark Elves, to wain before his reprieve from his life imprisonment sentence was in motion. Thor knew Loki would want to know she was improving.
“The Queen is well and fully recovered. She sits in her garden with her handmaid at present as they enjoy the sunshine and some needlepoint. She will be most pleased to have you home.”
While Heimdall would like to know how long the Crown Prince will be on Asgard he knows it is not his place to ask.
Thor beams a smile at his friend on hearing that his Mother is well. Bidding his friend adieu he heads for the Rainbow Bridge where a groom and two horses await. “Thank you Heimdall for my horse.” Thor calls back across his shoulder as he leaves.
“You are most welcome, my Prince”.
Outside the observatory a beautiful black stallion stands pawing the ground and snorting impatiently as he tosses his head up and down. Thor quickly mounts his favourite horse and races across the rainbow bridge towards the Palace. He acknowledges the welcome of the people as he passes and calls out to several who he fought beside in battle or drank with in taverns.
On arriving at the Palace he heads for the Queen’s private gardens. He knows he really should go see the King first but he knows his father will understand his desire to see his mother. No doubt Odin will pretend to pout but Thor knows it will be a show for any courtiers nearby.
He sees Queen Frigga before she is aware of his presence and he is pleased to see she appears to have returned to full health. Her maid smiles and bows slightly as he approaches. “My Prince, welcome home!”
Frigga rises instantly and laying her needlepoint aside turns to greet her son. Giving his Mother a kiss on the cheek, she embraces him warmly and a warm thrill passes through him, one which can only come from a Mother’s hug.
“Mother, I am pleased to see you are looking well.”
“Thank you Thor, and it always warms my heart to have my son in my arms”.
While pleased to see Thor Frigga’s heart aches a little as she sees that Loki is not with him. She tries to cover her disappointment before Thor can see it. Looking up at Thor with a warm welcoming smile she takes a second embrace before reluctantly letting him out of her reach.
He takes a seat beside his Mother as her maid enquires if the Queen would like tea brought to the garden. “No, please arrange for it to be brought to the family parlour as no doubt the King will wish to join us once he is through in the Throne room”.
Thor smiles as he tells Frigga that he came straight to her and has not yet met with his father. This makes Frigga smile even more. Normally it would be Loki who sought her out first before meeting with Odin whereas Thor would announce himself to the King then come to see her. She wonders if Thor is in some small way trying to make up for Loki’s absence as he had done after Loki had fallen into the void. She chastises herself for the thought as no doubt Thor came to her first because she had not been fully recovered the last time they’d been together.
“Are you truly recovered as Heimdall suggested?” Thor asked as soon as they were alone. This is not a conversation to be had while anyone outside the royal family was present.
“Yes, my son. You need no longer worry. Eir, (The Head Healer), herself ensured I was recovered fully before she would allow me resume my duties as Queen.”
“Then the Norms be praised. I do not know what I would do if we had lost you to Valhalla, Mother. And as for Loki, it scares me to think what would have become of him!”
“We have no need to consider such things.” She said as she laid a gentle hand on Thor’s. “Now tell me of Loki. Has he found a place for himself and perhaps some ease or peace amongst your Midgardian friends?”
“He has.” Thor happily advises their Mother. “He has become fast friends with two in particular. Captain Steven Rogers, the leader of the Avengers and one of whom you have heard me speak often, and the other is Sergeant James Barnes, who is as a brother to Captain Rogers. Both are fine warriors, honourable men and loyal friends so Loki could not have chosen wiser.”
“I am pleased to hear he has found two good friends but what of the others? Have they made room for Loki within their group. You know how hard it has always been for him to find a place for himself amongst others.”
There is no mistaking the concern and anxiety Frigga feels for her youngest son. While in the role of Prince or Ambassador or Emissary he embraces the role and can flourish but as to finding a position for himself he prefers to hide away and keep his own counsel. Frigga has long worried about Loki and even more so since he learned of his true parentage. She hoped that after a time the Midgardians would be more accepting of him and see Loki for all that he can be and not just the power crazed wounded creature that tried to take over their world but she remains skeptical. They have a lot to forgive him for and she would hate to think he has not gained any reprieve from his pain of feeling like an outsider, a role he has sadly embraced for some time.
“For the most part he has been accepted but, as only Loki can, he maintains a distance. He has fought alongside my Shield Brothers and Sisters and they now trust him to have their backs in battle. A number owe Loki for saving them from serious injury if not their lives. It has taken time but it gets easier with each passing week. Captain Rogers, I would suggest with little fear of being proven wrong, trusts Loki as he does me and the others; perhaps even a little more!”
Frigga is happy to hear this and some of the worry she has been feeling eases a little. Thor fills Frigga in on some of what has been happening and what the team gets up to when not defending Midgard. He speaks of his and Loki’s sparring matches with Steve and Bucky, Loki’s yoga and dance workouts with Natasha. He tells her about the team night out but deliberately leaves out the part about Lori making an appearance. He knows Loki would not want him to tell all the tales to their mother.
As Thor regales Frigga she begins to notice a pattern of how many times Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes names get mentioned in tales of Loki’s activities. She wishes Loki was there so she could hug him and hopes that he has found some of the happiness Thor’s tales suggest. She wants to hear more but, before she can ask, her maid reappears and advises that the tea is ready in the family parlour and that the King will be there presently.
Thor rises from his seat and offers his arm to his Mother. Taking Thor’s arm she allows him to escort her to the family parlour.
From they were young Bucky and Steve were avid baseball fans and both generally become very animated and vocal while watching a ball game. They couldn’t afford to go to many games when they were young but would sneak into the Dodgers home games every chance they got. A very conveniently placed break in the fence allowed access to the stadium and as long as they waited until close to the first pitch they generally didn't have much difficulty. They'd even met some of the team once after sneaking into the changing area. They’d been certain that security would be alerted but the players smiled and asked them to wish them luck. Both young boys happily obliged and when the Brooklyn Dodgers won that game Steve and Bucky, among themselves, proudly took the credit.
Loki tries to let the baseball game distract him from worrying about what may be happening on Asgard. Several times during the game Steve moves his knee, adding a little pressure where it rests against Loki’s, as a reminder to Loki that he is not alone. Bucky can see how distracted Loki is and how concerned Steve is for him. While he’s not fully sure what has caused this he knows it has something to do with Asgard and Thor’s return home. As its not the first time Thor has returned to Asgard since Loki arrived Bucky knows there must be more going on and he hopes his friend will be okay.
Bucky knows that Loki's norm is to spend most of his time at a baseball game watching Steve’s reactions to the plays in his peripheral vision.This seems to bring Loki more joy than the game itself.
Today though, Loki has spent his time staring blankly at the diamond but clearly not concentrating on or seeing any of the game. The times that Steve has paid attention to the game and not Loki were generally after the various plays had finished and the crowd’s reaction had caught Steve’s attention. Bucky shakes his head as it becomes clear that his two friends could be anywhere right now and be oblivious to the world around them.
Reaching over Steve to offer Loki some toffees Bucky asks if everything is okay. “You don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to but it’s obvious you're not getting the same enjoyment from the game today as you normally do!”
The slight tease is enough to make Loki smile. “My apologies, it seems that my mind is intent on taking me elsewhere today. I can leave and meet you both later if my being here is distracting from the game.” Loki immediately offers as he does not want his friends to miss the game on his account.
“No!” They both answer at once without hesitation.
Steve gives Loki a small smile. “If you'd rather be somewhere else we can leave. The Mets have no hope of getting this one back even if they played right through to tomorrow”.
“No, here is fine" he answered, "but I do not wish to distract you from enjoying the game.”
“I’m fine.” Steve reassures him.
Bucky looks at Loki, “No problem here, I was just concerned about you.”
“Thank you but there really is no need for concern. I assure you.”
“Hey, for someone who's supposed to be a Liesmith, you don’t do it very well when speaking about yourself”. Bucky observes and give Loki a smirk.
“Steve, please give your best friend a friendly dig in the ribs for me!” Loki requests. “I would do it myself but I do not wish to cause a scene as I lean across you to do so!”
Reaching out his elbow, Steve does exactly as Loki asked. Bucky pretends to look insulted and injured as Steve chuckles. "Punk!"
The little display between his friends helps Loki relax a little and maybe Steve having moved a little closer so that their thighs and knees were now touching helped too.
A short while later the intro to The Birdie Song starts and the three friends rise to join the rest of the crowd all standing and waiting to join in the dance. Steve and Bucky enthusiastically join in while Loki makes little effort. Steve gives him a friendly shoulder and a pleading smile. Loki cannot resist those puppy dog eyes looking out at him from behind those long eyelashes and from under the baseball cap and so he gives in and extremely reluctantly joins in the actions just before it finishes.
Steve leans over and whispers in his ear, “I am proud of you and if we were alone I would kiss you right now!”
This makes Loki smile and it is the first real smile since Thor had left. “I will hold you to that later!”
“It’ll be my pleasure.” Steve says as he smiles broadly before re-taking his seat.
Loki quietly and discretely watches Steve for the rest of the game and, as Steve becomes absorbed in the various plays now that Loki has relaxed, they don't find the time passing. The ever present feeling of Steve's body next to him relaxed Loki more than he could have imagined and as he concentrated on the man beside him what was happening on Asgard slipped to the back of his mind.
The three friends head off to get food after the game and Loki tells Bucky a little of his worries about Thor’s return to Asgard. Steve and Bucky discuss the game and they all make plans for the next one. They had previously tried but not succeeded in convincing Loki that the hotdogs at the game were a delicacy and as he refused to take more than one bite he was hungry by the time the food arrived. As the two old friends told stories from their childhood Loki ate happily. He enjoyed seeing Steve be so free and relaxed. Despite not sharing the memories they spoke of, Loki didn't feel left out. Both Steve and Bucky somehow made him feel part of their baseball experience. Steve tended to lean closer to Loki as he recalled embarrassing stories about Bucky as if what they shared was a precious secret known only to a few. Loki smiled at the mischief in his love's eyes as the tales of their escapades continued.
As dinner was ending Bucky gave Natasha a call and arranged to meet her and whoever else wished to join him for a few drinks and late night dancing.
Steve and Loki let Bucky take the car as Loki confirmed they would make their own way back to the facility. Going their separate ways, as Bucky headed off to meet Natasha, Steve and Loki head towards Central Park in anticipation of a quiet evening stroll together.
with an illusion cast by Loki, they walk hand in hand through the Park. They spend time watching the water birds and relax on a bench drinking the hot chocolate bought from a street vendor. Thanks to Loki's magic no one pays them any attention and Steve is emboldened by the fact of having Loki so close in a public place while knowing that his magic shields them.
Loki leans in towards Steve and lays his head against his shoulder as he relaxes more into his warmth. Steve can’t help but lean down and place a tender kiss on the top of Loki’s head as they enjoy being alone together. He wishes he could do more but this will have to do for now. When they are ready to leave they step into a clump of trees and out of sight. Loki leans down and places a gentle kiss on Steve's lips. They continue to kiss as Loki teleports them back to the facility. They reluctantly break apart.
Both tend to Pottery and Tin before making their way to their rooms. A relaxed Loki heads into his room and sleeps better than he'd expected knowing the Steve understands his anxiety and is willing to be there for him and help any way he can.